Zaatar: It's Ancient, it's Aromatic, it's Addictive...
Dating back as far as ancient Egypt, Zaatar is a unique spice blend born in the Middle East. It’s even mentioned in the Bible in a few places. This aromatic mix has a reputation for being a healthy brain food, and the contents can vary depending on where you are in the Middle East. Here are a few of our favourite Zaatar recipes to get you cooking with this beautiful spice blend...
Zest & Zing has been working to perfect our new version of this essential Middle Eastern spice blend, so we’d suggest giving ours a try. It includes thyme, sesame seeds, salt, sumac, oregano, cumin, fennel seeds, and marjoram.
Sumac is a key ingredient, lending its powerful, almost lemony flavour to the blend. And the sesame seeds are toasted for extra depth. All those spices together make almost any savoury dish even better. Throw it on baked goods or grilled meats for an unbelievable change in flavour profile, or sprinkle it on an everyday dips to be transported.
If you had to pinpoint the taste, you’d say it was tangy, piney, earthy, nutty, and almost citrusy. And you’d immediately sense that it was from the Middle East. Once you start adding this secret ingredient to different dishes, you’ll find it’s actually quite addictive.
There’s no meat that wouldn’t benefit from a little za’atar. From steak and lamb to poultry and fish, it flavours and brightens proteins to give them a bit of intangible, savoury depth. Simply add a little to transform a dish!
Try this Zaatar Roast Chicken with Green Tahini Sauce for a bit of zing and a new twist on the classic roast chicken. Garlic and tahini both pair extremely well with za’atar. For an even simpler take on chicken that uses tender and moist dark meat, try these Zaatar and Lemon Grilled Chicken Thighs. You could even sprinkle it on baked or grilled chicken breasts to elevate an ordinary yet healthy dish.
You might think this potent spice blend would overpower fish, but it works surprisingly well with snapper, cod, and even salmon. This Crispy Zaatar Fish With Couscous, Swiss Chard, and Feta which includes a traditional Middle Eastern side dish alongside its light main course. And to give your salmon a crispy delicious skin, here’s an easy way to create Zaatar Crusted Salmon. Take it up a notch by making the garlicky tzatziki sauce in the recipe.
Zaatar loves red meats like lamb and beef too. Use it in a marinade or create a compound butter for your steaks. Or you can just dust your meat with Zaatar and salt before cooking the steaks in a pan or on the grill. You can even make Zaatar burgers! Then be sure to add Zaatar to your lamb dishes - it’s like it was made for them. Try it on this Yogurt-Marinated, Grilled Zaatar-Rubbed Leg of Lamb (yogurt and Zaatar is an obvious and perfect combination) or this easy Grilled Lamb Chops recipe.
But don’t stop there. Add Zaatar in places you wouldn’t think for unexpectedly delicious results. It’s great on all sorts of kebabs and skewers, and you can even add it to your fried chicken!
Dips, Spreads, and Sides Sprinkled with Zaatar
Zaatar should be your first choice when it comes to waking up dips and spreads like tzatziki, hummus, and baba ghanoush. Any yogurt-based sauce could handle a good sprinkle of this fragrant blend too.
For something a little more creative, the cold weather season could use this smooth, brightly-colored Zaatar-Spiced Beet Dip with Goat Cheese which incorporates the earthiness of beets, the heat of a chili, and the crunch of hazelnuts. You can also blend the spice with garlic, feta, and cream cheese for this whipped Zaatar Roasted Garlic Feta Dip that’s great with fresh vegetables.
You’ll need something to dip into all these savoury spreads, so add a little Middle Eastern flare to your everyday snacks. Bake your pitas with za’atar and olive oil to create crispy, tasty Zaatar Pita Chips. It works the same with flatbreads like pizza crust and manakish.
You can even make your own easy dip with Greek yogurt, mint, garlic, and salt. Or you can just mix Zaatar with olive oil and salt for a simple yet amazing dip for your warm pitas or fresh bread. If want to fancy it up, try it with cilantro, garlic, and black pepper.
Dishes That Could (Surprisingly) Use Zaatar
Next time you decide to roast some vegetables, add zaatar to your usual mix of salt, pepper, and olive oil. For a perfectly vegetarian main course, try these Zaatar Crusted Cauliflower Steaks.
Try an unexpected Italy-meets-the-Middle-East appetizer by roasting cherry tomatoes with Zaatar for the most unique bruschetta you’ve ever tasted. These Zaatar Roasted Tomato Crostinis With Labneh look amazing, and you could substitute Greek yogurt for labneh if you have it available. If you need an interesting starter or side dish, these Baked Zaatar Eggplant Fries with Lemon Tahini Dip are guaranteed to impress.
Even your everyday pasta salad could use a touch of Za’atar to keep it exciting. Trust us!